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L'Armée des ombres (Army in the Shadows) Reviews

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Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

June 2, 2012
The French Resistance is where this examination begins but there's not a single scene showing a train being blown up or lines being furtively cut in the dead of night ... rather it's a look at the interior damage wrought when choosing to resist tyranny at all, the isolation, the loneliness, the agonizing fear of trusting yourself. Must see.

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2009
Unembellished and matter-of-fact. Melville masterfully spotlights the French Resistance without martyring the Nazi regime that spawned it.

Super Reviewer

December 4, 2007
a great depiction of french resistance, melville blends substance with his usual stylistic approach. the film falters at many points with a lack of clarity and direction to the shifty plot, and the film is almost entirely without emotion, but it has striking images and flawless direction in its portrayal of horrific events. overall very good film.

Super Reviewer

March 9, 2008
This Movie is from the Criterion
Collection, Spine Number 385. This movie was made 39 years ago, and was voted best film of 2006. About the French Resistance during World War II. A true Masterpiece. A Must See. In French with English Subtitles. Only bad part is the German Soliders have no subtitles. Will find its way in my collection.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

July 28, 2007
For the most part this movie is nooze fucking city! The first twenty minutes and the last half hour were the only parts of this movie that really had me going. The cinematography had its high points, but that was about it. Between this and Le Samourai, I'm going to make it a point to run in the opposite direction whenever I hear Jean-Pierre Melville's name mentioned.

Super Reviewer

July 5, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]"Army of Shadows" starts out in 1942 in occupied France as civil engineer Philippe Gerbier(Lino Ventura) is being brought to a prison camp where he is imprisoned with men of almost every nationality. The only other person he considers recruiting to the French Resistance is a young Communist but before they can finalize their escape plans, Gerbier is transferred to the Gestapo. While waiting at Gestapo headquarters with another prisoner, Gerbier makes a daring escape.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]In Marseilles, Gerbier is the chief of a resistance cell that includes Felix(Paul Crauchet), Le Bison(Christian Barbier) and new recruit Le Masque(Claude Mann). Together, they share the unpleasant task of killing a traitor to the cause. Later, Felix meets an old friend, an ex-pilot, Jean-Francois(Jean-Pierre Cassel), and recruits him to the Resistance.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Army of Shadows" is a very compelling epic thriller about the French Resistance during World War II, told from different points of view. The movie wisely chooses to focus on the everyday details of the characters' non-glamorous heroics, thus giving the movie an honest and authentic feel. [/font]
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

August 2, 2014
Yeah, in case you think that the French were just a bunch of cowards during World War II, well, watch as they get some hardcore work done... by hiding and waiting to sneak up for an attack. ...So, uh, yeah, anyways, they told me that this film was a dark comedy, but I wasn't expecting it to be this bleak, or to be twelve years older than any "Evil Dead" film. Well, I reckon if you don't want to sound like an idiot, don't get this film confused with "Army of Darkness", something that you might accidentally do, considering that this film isn't too much more historically accurate than "Army of Darkness". Both the author of the source material, Joseph Kessel, and the cat adapting it here, Jean-Pierre Melville, were in the French Resistance, and they're still taking their fair share of liberties, which isn't to say that don't still know how to get brutally honest. This film is indeed pretty bleak, or, in other words, slow and French, which is the formula needed to impress the pretentious Americans, while the French are looking at this film which is actually an important historical piece for them, and being all like, "Américains ignorants". Well, I think the French had kind of an excuse to be sour, because this film came out shortly after a period of civil unrest in French universities and factories in 1968, and made the Frenchies mad because, I don't know, it stood as a tribute to a French conflict that people actually remember. Well, whether it be because, as an ignorant American, I think that this film is sophisticated just because it's French, or whatever, I think we have a pretty good film here, or at least a refreshing one, and even then, that's up to a point.

The film has its conventional touches as a pseudo-noir Holocaust and special operations drama, and they're so light and so inconsequential that they really shouldn't be a big deal, but are notable for contradicting the genuine, unlikely originality that this film carries in so many ways, and for hitting some histrionic tropes. Just like the conventions, the melodramatics are hardly a big issue by their own right, but in the context of everything else, they're hard to deny, say, when they shake a sense of subtlety that often overcompensates through moderate, but sure ambiguities which convolute the level of depth to this drama. The film stands to be more fleshed out, at least enough for its focal shifts to feel more organic, as this film follows many chapters which it jars through as somewhat episodic, and keeps around longer than it perhaps ought to. It's hard to not appreciate a film which has the guts to take the long route to flesh dramatic value out, and sure enough, this film puts its two-and-a-half-hour runtime to good use on the whole, but like I said, not everything is as fleshed out as it probably should be, thus, the film's length is achieved partly through filler and meanderings, whose excessiveness is made all the more palpable by a subdued sense of directorial momentum. I cracked my joke about how bleak European drama surely means dryness, but, as sure as sunshine, this gritty flick prefers to go a slow-burn route which works more often than not, but only if there is consistent material to draw upon with the meditations, and even then, there's something very formal about the atmosphere of this thriller, to where resonance to the dramatics and tension go cold. The aesthetic integrity, intriguing subject matter and solid performances will surely endear between the highlights in dramatic bite which, make no mistake, burn pretty brightly, but momentum is questionable in this drama of a great potential which only makes the missteps, no matter how subtle, all the harder to ignore. Nevertheless, the film is a rewarding slow-burn dramatic thriller, although if nothing else holds your attention, it's the visual style of the film.

Adopting some noirish emphasis on subtle shadows and taking on a certain deep blue palette, Pierre Lhomme's and Walter Wottitz's cinematography is tremendously handsome and distinguished, not just in its complimenting a sense of bleakness to this gritty drama, but in its being unique, especially for the time, boasting a taste and definition that was ahead of the curve, not unlike certain other aspects of the film. Jean-Pierre Melville's script occasionally succumbs to conventions and melodramatics along its uneven and overlong course, and it's not as though it delivers on much sparkling dialogue or thoroughly rich characterization, but it makes its share of audacious moves which were ahead of the time and are still unpredictable, no matter how distinct the scripting's drawing of plot and characters are. Well, again, the characterization stands to be richer, thus, the depths of this at least thematically human thriller are truly drawn out by a cast of subtle, but effective performances which sort of carry the film, due to the intimacy of the storytelling. Now, when I say that storytelling is intimate, I do mean that it is overtly meditative, and where that could have dulled momentum to a crawl, intrigue is sustained by good looks, writing and acting, all behind a story concept which has plenty of intrigue to spare. A melodramatic and extensive portrait on the French Resistance's actions against the Nazis, this subject matter offers a lot of historical importance, as well as a lot of dramatic intrigue, so much so that it would be difficult to shave away all that much engagement value. That is by no means the intentions of Melville, even as a director who relies a lot of chilled atmospherics, as he carries a worthy ambition that pays off plenty once inspiration kicks in, to where what score work there is - courtesy of the gifted Éric Demarsan - goes utilized in a piercing manner which punctuates a consistent engagement value which is sustained through enough realization to the thoughtfulness to immerse and tense up, to one extent or another, through and through. The film does so much right, and although what few things it does wrong go a fair distance in holding back resonance, the final product is never less than compelling, and ultimately rewarding.

Once the shadows have cleared, occasions of convention and melodramatics betray uniqueness and subtlety, much of which is a little too subtle, to where things are not fleshed out enough to prevent jars in focal shifts which take their time showing up amidst dragging that is made all the more limp by more than a few atmospheric cold spells, and yet, through handsome cinematography which was about as ahead of its time as much of the writing, and through strong performances from a nuanced cast and direction by Jean-Pierre Melville, "Army of Shadows" stands as a reasonably engrossing and rewarding account of the heroic, yet bleak story behind the French Resistance.

3/5 - Good
John B

Super Reviewer

January 4, 2012
Incredible tale of the Resistance which wasn't available for viewing in North America until a few years ago but was still considered one of the best films of the year when it was finally released. An intricate story that involving patriots and those who snitch on them..with graphic results.
Chris B

Super Reviewer

June 9, 2011
Melville's L'Armee des ombres (Army in the Shadows) is a sad and truly realistic film about the French Resistance fighters of WW II. It notes and graphically shows their struggles and the everyday risks that they take in order to stand up to the Germans. The film isn't an action heavy one but more of a fleshing out of day to day lives and missions of the Resistance Fighters. While there are some scenes of extreme brutality and images of the results of torture on our heroes. In the end, the film feels very personal and tells the stories of the men and women (the incredible Mathilde played by Simone Signoret) and the lengths they went to in order to stand up for themselves and their country. Recommended!
Alec B

Super Reviewer

July 30, 2010
More films need to be made about the French Resistance during WWII. It shows that war with all the moral complexities that really existed. The fact that it is seen as the "good war" is a preposterous notion. People on all sides did some really fucking terrible things in the name of their country. As for the film, its a meticulously crafted thriller that keeps you on your toes at all times.

Super Reviewer

August 28, 2008
The price of espionage troops.Ventura,Signoret,Meurisse,the all-star cast of Melville was ready to drum the front-line of A-class film-making,of which the remains of it some decades later are distant echoes,entangled subplots,why...I'll admit only Hitler was missing!
Tom S

Super Reviewer

April 7, 2009
Some really beautiful photography, but it just never pulled me in.

Super Reviewer

June 22, 2008
After a disastrous release in France, this Jean-Pierre Melville film was never distributed abroad and it lingered in obscurity until it finally got an American theatrical release two years ago and was distributed on DVD by Criterion. With that release it got a major critical re-discovery and was hailed the best movie of 2006 by a few smart-ass critics. It's great to see this was re-discovered as it really is a great film, and one of the best looks at a resistance movement I've seen on film. A great thriller that reminded me a lot of The Conformist, and probably a predecessor of the 70's paranoid thriller.
August 3, 2011
What keeps blowhards masked and swinging high and low in the dead of the cold, cold night? Not the ambition of a sunny tomorrow. Would-be fact, being so piled in shit it's tough telling where things fall. The beating pulp of a center to Jean-Pierre Melville's conspiracy sizzler "Army of Shadows" takes the wings of World War II, and shoots from there. Hot fuzz has 'em pegged before daybreak: that high noon of the French Resistance where especially the innocent were choked by their potential to make more than emotion move, the murky underground mafia of patriots who come to off heads while ensuring operative intellect excels. It's the drawing line.

Watch Melville build silence on the skyline, a contra champ of minimalist rumble. His go-to chump is Gestapo refugee Gerbier (a masterful Lino Ventura), who joins an anti- sting group and becomes a haunted godfather. I'll say no more. Let Melville -- adapting for the screen the novel by Joseph Kessel -- weed you through the melancholy. If you're smart, you'll make your stake. In "Army of Shadows", everything that can go wrong does, with lasting echo. But Melville's the one to prove real influence calls for volunteer. Gerbier wears his forbearance like skin to be shed. Under him government and history are one. Still his eyes read hoping redemption, unkempt style aloft on the winds of change, with permanence all but ready to die on every last fighting word.
April 21, 2010
It's a tense and lofty duty to direct a film so dispassionately honest about rebellion movements, especially in the middle of a rather serious one in France, the country of origin for this dark and gloomy film. Leave it to the French to make a film about a resistance movement, where the means and actions of the movement are kept on the back burner. It works, and Army of Shadows becomes a darkly beautiful look at the conflicted morals and damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't nature of France during World War 2.
October 17, 2008
I got a little lost watching this. Characters got mixed up, and I couldn't always tell what people were up to. I'm sure if I watched it again I'd figure it out, but it didn't inspire a second viewing.
December 7, 2007
The best film ever? well maybe not. But definitely the one that touches me the most. A great feature about how the giant machinery of war crushes heartlessly the little men trapped beneath it.
The most important thing in this film is how it depicts courage without heroism. The characters are not some kind of supermen. They are fallible and above all fear is constantly present as it seems humidity and cold. Even the sun looks wet, cold and fearful in this film.
In this film characters start being combatants out of free will and for noble cause, but they only go on fighting because that is the only way for them to survive. In a way, their fight is much closer from the gangsters v. police struggle than from the image of war cinema usually presents.
All the characters speak low as if they were afraid that death may hear them and pay attention to them. Moreover, the storyline is not constructed as any other. Instead of having a well structured narration leading gradually to a climax, here each scene is a new episode and the characters are somewhat astonished and happy to be still alive at that moment. They enjoy each moment simply because they are still breathing.
I also loved the modesty and the seamlessness of the camera work. There is no music and next to no artistry as it should when men and women are looking at their own death.
June 23, 2007
Jean-Pierre Melville's opus about French Resistance fighters of WWII is his most personal film. It is stylish, grim and so meticulously perfect. This is even better than Le Samourai. Melville draws on his own experiences as a Resistance fighter and combines them with his own meticulous attention to detail to give his film unparalleled authenticity. Not a single shot is wasted. The cast's performances are just as restrained as the film itself. Melville gives touches of his gangster films to this film as well as a fatalistic and existential feel to the story. There is no sentimentalism in this masterpiece, just hard hitting realism and an insightful look at heroism and patriotism.
June 7, 2007
This movie is SOOO good but SOO sad. It's incredibly done. It has nothing like 'a hollywood ending" (cuz its a French movie, and is in French...)
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